Rivals say Tiger can handle difficult walk at Masters

Jim Slater, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 05 2022 05:45 AM

Tiger Woods speaks at Genesis Invitational tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on February 20 2022. Caroline Brehman, EPA-EFE/file
Tiger Woods speaks at Genesis Invitational tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on February 20 2022. Caroline Brehman, EPA-EFE/file

Tiger Woods looks ready to manage the challenge of walking 72 holes at Augusta National only 14 months after suffering severe right leg injuries in a car crash.

That's what rivals of the 15-time major champion said Monday as Woods played his first public practice round ahead of his "game-time decision" about whether or not to attempt a comeback at the Masters.

"Still a little slow going up a couple of hills on 17 and 18. I mean, I was as well," said Cameron Davis, an Australian who played the final five holes with Woods in a Sunday practice round.

"He's striking it well. He's hitting it far enough to play the holes the way you need to play them. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be able to put rounds together out here."

Woods said he was lucky to survive a February 2021 automobile accident in Southern California and not have his right leg amputated.

He has battled through rehabilitation to give himself the chance to play this week, walking confidently as spectators screamed their support for his comeback bid.

A start by Woods in Thursday's opening round would be among the more astonishing injury fightbacks in sports history, the five-time Masters champion not having played since defending his title at the 2020 Masters, played in November due to Covid-19.

"It was cool," Davis said of his back-nine tour with Woods. "He's hitting the shots you should hit. He was playing well. Everything was looking pretty solid. It will be great to see him out here if he decides to tee it up on Thursday.

"Just looked like the work he's been putting in has set him up pretty well for this week if he feels ready."

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, seeking his first green jacket, played last year's Masters after knee surgery and struggled getting around the layout.

"I'm happy he's becoming healthier and able to play golf. We need him, the game needs him, everybody needs him, the fans need him, all that stuff," Koepka said.

"I was in somewhat of his shoes trying last year two weeks after surgery. This place isn't exactly an easy walk. I understand what he's up against. It'll be difficult.

"But if anybody can do it, it's him."

Koepka said he needed painkillers to combat the pain last year.

"I had to get shot up just to play last year. It's difficult enough to walk," Koepka said.

"I don't know everything he's going through. His was a lot worse than mine. I'm not trying to compare it. I just know it's difficult walking this place when you don't have the same body parts you're used to."

"It's a major championship, it's Augusta. Doesn't matter how much pain you're in, you figure out a way. He'll figure out a way. If anybody can do it, he can."

- Inspirational Tiger -

Woods has battled back from knee and back injuries for most of his career, overcoming spinal fusion to win the 2019 Masters.

"He has come back so many times from injury, so he's an inspiration to all of us," 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson said.

"Just an amazing will inside of him... so it's really cool that he's making this week the push to come back after that car wreck."

Australia's sixth-ranked Cameron Smith can't wait to watch Woods.

"It would be massive," Smith said. "I'm sure he's dying to get out here. He's a competitor and he's looking to take people down."